Archives February 2008

Parenting: To Do It All Over Again

Ever ponder what you’d do different if you had a chance to do it all over again as a parent, now that you are older and wiser?

Hindsight is the only time most of us will truly experience 20/20 vision.

Pre-birth babies spend nine warm months in a cozy environment only to be suddenly thrust into the world of air conditioning, bright light, a cacophony of sounds and to make it worse, a whack on the butt. Now, my child would enter the world in a tub of warm water in dim light, without harsh sounds, and immediately placed upon his/her mothers chest after birth.

I would play recordings of Mozart sonatas softly in the background of his/her room, to present soothing sounds of perfect melody, give the baby a sense of order and instill a love of music.

I would try talking to my child in adult tones, and depart from the goochy goo so many of us introduce as “communications.” Parents often mimic the baby, instead of teaching the baby to mimic us.

I would start introducing the hazards of today’s world before the child ever stepped foot in first grade. He/she would know, in simple terms, the horrors of drugs and alcohol abuse. Indoctrinated at an early age about shunning peer pressure, those values would be and fixated long he/she steps into a middle school.

I would introduce healthy and moral-minded celebrities, besides Mom and Dad, as role models for my child. Tiger Woods instead of Dennis Rodman. Celine Dion instead of Britney Spears. Athletes who cheat, movie stars who cheat, and people who lie, use drugs and cannot speak without using profanity would be off limits to my child, as long as I had the controls.

I would curb, or stop, my own negative habits, like smoking, and drinking to excess, because I would know I am a role model with a powerful influence on my child.

My child would witness his/her parent’s work ethic. Whether it be maintaining the home or working at a job, the child would learn the difference between achievement and non-achievement.

We would share at least one meal a day, in unison, at the table. If people are too busy for any other time to meet and talk, the dinner table offers a forum for togetherness. Dinners while glued to a television set, where no one talks to each other, would be prohibited.

I would limit television throughout the early growing up years. Too many parents, in my opinion, use television as an electronic baby sitter. I would strongly monitor everything that the child watches to ensure good health of mind and morals.

No television in the child’s bedroom until it reaches middle teens. But I’d surround the room with books.

I would read more to my child, and teach him/her that reading is wonderful.

It is important that a growing child have access to a computer, if nothing else, but to utilize for education and school assignments. However, for his/her protection, Internet would not be available in the child’s private bedroom until after the age of eighteen. A family computer with Internet would be set up in a common area, which is not private.

Material objects would take second or third place behind activity and accomplishment. As the child gets older, more joy would be stressed about giving instead of receiving, especially at holiday celebrations.

At an early age, I’d do all I could to help the child learn a second language, preferably Spanish or French which are the international languages.

The proverbial dog would wag the tail. I would tell, not ask, the child what we’re having for lunch or dinner. I would tell, not ask, the child that he/she is going to learn to play the piano, or take art lessons, or play sports, or help mom or dad around the house.

I would do as much listening as speaking, including rather than excluding, stroking rather than criticizing, and do more to develop self-esteem.

As the child grows, he/she would learn that work brings positive rewards in many forms. He/she would learn that there is nothing free in the adult world, and it’s good to earn money — even around the house — because it develops appreciation for the dollar.

Love and loyalty supercedes selfishness and ego. He/she would learn how important it is to be there for others in the tough times, as well as the good times.

I’d help my child learn a hobby or special interest that will stick with him/her throughout life. If someone can do something really well, whether it be music, art, writing, history, collecting coins, making model cars, whatever, it will abate the loneliness of dark times.

In the teen years, I’d place more emphasis on education and sights toward the future.

I would teach my teenage kid to cope with adversity. Not every day will be a good day, and he/she would have to handle the tough times like a man or a woman, not a child.

I would also shed the role of authoritarian as soon as possible and try to become more of a mentor, guide, and above all, always letting my child know how much he/she is loved.

Finally, I would try and share these reflections with my adult child as he/she becomes a parent also.

MCCAIN VERSUS THE NY TIMES

Shame on the New York Times.

It’s time for some entity within the private sector to establish a watchdog organization for yellow journalism. Reporters and newspapers should not, and cannot, get away with publishing unsubstantiated and scandalous stories for no other reasons than to derail a candidate and sell newspapers. Public agencies like police and military are constantly subjected to public scrutiny, why not the print media? The first amendment is not a free ticket to slander for sales.

Senator McCain did not have an affair with the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. So says Ms. Iseman and so says Mr. McCain. Nor did he give special favors. There is absolutely no evident to support those allegations — none, zilch — and without that evidence there should not have been a story. Nuff said. Anonymous sources are just that: Anonymous. They are ghosts in the wind with no backing and support.

Any journalist can invent anonymous sources. If those sources did exist, what would be their motive for revealing such information to the media? Sour grapes? Fired for a job? Passed over for a lucrative a contract with the government? Why anonymous? How can those sources be held accountable — if they, indeed, exist? We’ll never know, will we?

The Times should answer to the public for their motives in electing to print such a story. It wouldn’t be because they are liberally biased and want to see a Democrat win the Oval Office, is it?

Think about this. If all the circumstances were identical, but the name was Obama instead of McCain, would the Times have run the story? You know the answer to that, and so do I.

Interesting that this issue, which is nine years in the cooker, happened to surface at this point and time by a newspaper that unabashedly leans toward the Democratic side.

It doesn’t matter whether you are for or against Senator John McCain for president. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. It’s a matter of ethics, the American public being awakened to the fact they are often manipulated by a biased media, some liberal, some conservative. Both sides are guilty of doing the same thing. Only, this story is a bombshell directed toward dismantling a man’s campaign for the presidency.

I know about media manipulation. Many of my police friends, and those inside the field of law, can attest to examples where the media, print and television, preconceives a story then carefully edits information in support of the story, and edits out what does not.

I once sat on the other end of a TV camera being grilled by reporters about a corruption scandal in the police department. When the interview started focusing on me as a conspirator, of higher rank than the others, the interview was halted. Later that evening, I watched in disbelief as the local news aired. They had carefully cut and pasted the wrong responses to certain questions to make me appear like a liar. Two years later, one of those reporters went out of his way to apologize to me.

In 2000, I was being interviewed on camera by John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 concerning my views about racial profiling. I had written an op-ed article for the Miami Herald in which I asserted that profiling is justified in some instances, regardless of the racial equation. Stossel’s line of questioning was clear. I was to be portrayed on the show as a fang-dripping racist. So I turned the tables. “May I ask you a question, John?” I asked.

“Sure.”

“When you first heard about the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, what was the first thought that came in your mind?”

“Arabs,” he replied without hesitating.

“Well, sir. You just racially profiled.”

From behind, the producer hollered, “Cut!”

The interview was never aired.

News reporters and editors, especially those with political bias, are able to cherry pick information to fit a predetermined story line, much the same as George W. Bush has been accused by the media of cherry picking intelligence to justify a war. Hopefully, the public will have enough sense to know when they are being duped.

Everyone knew, including the Times, what the outcome of the new McCain scandal was going to be. Case closed. Not guilty. No evidence, let’s move on. But the seed is effectively planted, which was undoubtedly the intent.

In truth, the big story here should not be about McCain and his alleged liaison with a lobbyist. Rather, it should be about The New York Times, and all biased media. and ways to curb yellow journalism in the 21st century.

POLICE MISCONDUCT SKEWS PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

Some folks reject the old cliche`, “Don’t judge an entire profession by the actions of a few.” But it’s true.

Having been a cop for thirty years, and well aware of how news stories are often skewed to give the appearance that police are the bad guys, I generally hold back judgement on reports about brutality until both sides of the issue are known. In 1991, Rodney King was subjected to a street whipping by L.A. Police after leading them on a chase, assaulting the officers and resisting arrest. The famed video tape was played on national television a thousand times over, but only that portion which made the cops look bad. (And they did)

My sense of loyalty will always lean toward police officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect Americans. If there is a hint of doubt about the veracity of an accusatory report, I will support the police until I am convinced otherwise. After all, they are my extended family. With rare exception, they are brave, diligent American patriots who might be relaxing over a lunch one second, then facing a sudden crisis the next, expected to make the right decisions at all times, no matter how instant.

This time, it’s tough. Two recent incidents alleging police misconduct have hit the news media, both of which are hard to swallow, even without knowing the other side of the story.

Stark County (Canton) Ohio, Mrs. Hope Steffey was hauled in to jail following her own call to the cops, after allegedly being assaulted by her cousin. Because she produced a drivers license that had belonged to her deceased sister, the police thought her to be suspicious. She claimed it was an error, that she held her sister’s license for sentimental reasons, and then produced her own identification. When the woman — who had no criminal record — asked for her sister’s license back, the officer refused. Somewhere in the interim, tempers flared and the woman’s face was slammed to the hood of the police car, chipping one of her teeth. She then was taken to the ground where she was arrested and handcuffed.

Okay, maybe the woman was unruly and the cops were justified. Maybe. Benefit — doubt.

Next, Mrs. Steffey was taken to the county jail and forcibly strip-searched to naked, under protest — while handcuffed — by six or seven deputies, including two male officers. Stark Countýs policy — as are all police policies — states that a strip search must be conducted by a same sex officer. The citizen turned inmate was left unclothed in a cell for six hours without even a blanket, wrapping herself in toilet tissue for warmth and modesty. She was not allowed a phone call or medical attention. When she was brought to booking, only a small weighted vest was provided to cover her nudity. She had been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

More amazing, is that these officers not only engaged in conduct which appeared improper, they did it under full scope of a video camera. Check it out. It’s quite condemning: http://www.sheriff.co.stark.oh.us/

Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson states the reason Mrs. Steffeýs clothes were taken from her and she was left naked in a cell, was for her own safety. Sheriff Swanson maintains that his deputies are not guilty of any wrongdoing and that they have a job to protect prisoners in their custody.

Ooookay.

Needless to say, litigation has already begun. I hope Stark County is solvent.

The next case is even more disturbing. On February 12th of this year, a disabled man was arrested for a traffic warrant in Hillsborough County, Florida, and taken to the police station. Brian Sterner had suffered a neck injury fourteen years before, and has no feeling below the chest area. With an adapted vehicle, he is able to drive.

Though a bona fide, wheelchair-bound, quadriplegic, the female deputy at the station apparently thought Mr. Sterner was faking the whole thing. So, she stepped behind his wheelchair and unceremoniously lifted the back handles and dumped him like a wheelbarrow full of cement upon the station floor. Another deputy is seen in the tape, apparently amused. Mr. Sterner was then searched while lying on the floor like a beached seal, obviously paralyzed. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I would have doubted it all. Click here:

By all accounts brought out in the tape, these officers should be stripped of their badges, not only because of their contemptible actions, but for utter stupidity knowing that despite the video cameras rolling, they still act like barbarians.

I feel comfortable in asserting that 99 percent of all police officers in this country are fine, upstanding and competent public servants who do not engage in such behaviors. The other one percent would comprise a very small number from the 850,000 cops in the United States, and even that, I’m sure, is an exaggerated number. But by broadcasting these incidents over national news, over and over, it will unfortunately give the cynical public an impression that the majority of cops are unfeeling idiots who should be feared and not trusted. Nothing can be further from the truth.

During my career with a three-thousand man department, I rarely encountered cops who indiscriminately abused citizens. With rare exception, officers I knew treated citizens with respect and dignity, even child molesters and murderers. Yet, when it came time to bring a bad cop to justice, my colleagues and I never had any compunction. My last arrest as a sworn officer, in 1980, was that of five officers charged with the brutal killing of an unarmed traffic offender. Their acquittal led to the Miami Liberty City riots of May, 1980.

Police agencies spend arduous time and a great deal of money screening applicants and training officers to prevent such incidents from happening. Now and then, a bad cop will slip through the cracks. That’s the way it is with most any profession. I’m sure the cops who acted so poorly in these two videos will soon be experiencing a new direction in their lives.

In 2007, 186 police officers were killed in the line of duty protecting you and me. Another five thousand were seriously injured. Folks should bear that in mind before judging harshly and broad brushing the police profession.

I’m proud to have been one of them.

CONSERVATISM: I WALK THE LINE

Not long ago, a good friend and I engaged in the taboo — a discussion about politics. When I said something critical of President G.W. Bush, my friend lashed out, “Well, that makes you a liberal and me a conservative.” Not so. But we ended the conversation and remained friends.

Labels are everything. It’s how simple minded people relate. It’s how we define one another, it’s how we define celebrities and politicians. We like the one-word pigeon holes, it makes it easy for we humans to identify who and what people are. Bush, the conservative. Clinton, the liberal. Bin Laden, the terrorist. Britney Spears, the mental case. Jack Kervorkian, Doctor Death. Pavarotti, the voice. Jeffrey Dahmer, the killer. Nixon, crook.

Much ado is being made these days of Senator McCain’s credentials as a “true” conservative.

Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. What does it matter? All that matters is his loyalty to the nation as an American, and his ability to lead the nation in fiscal responsibility and to make our citizens secure from foreign invaders.

These days, if a politician is opposed to abortion, that makes him a conservative. Pro-choice, means liberal. If a Republican dares to join with Democrats in forming bi-partisan legislation, the party dubs him disloyal and not a true conservative. Meanwhile, Senator McCain, like any politician, is sucking up to the power brokers and the special interest groups assuring everyone that he is everything they all want him to be. Just elect me, please!

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of hearing the term bantered about as though conservative means “good” and liberal means “bad.” In my book, it all depends on the issue. When it comes to illegal immigration, I’m a hard core conservative. When it comes to legalizing marijuana, I’m a flaming liberal. Go ahead. Pigeon hole me.

Rush Limbaugh is considered the number one talk-show host in America. He’s bright, articulate and a hard-core, unapologetic conservative. I take issue with his brightness. One can listen to Rush on any given day and you cannot find one sentence from his lips that does not utter the words “conservative” or “liberal,” invariably in positive and negative context. That’s all that is on the man’s mind, pigeon-holing individuals according to their so-called “conservative” values.

We hear that stupid phrase all the time on news shows. I often wonder what it means — “conservative values” — as though it is synonymous with “Christian values.” Frankly, I would prefer hearing about American values, which could be liberal or conservative, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, black or white. American values is all that matters.

Rush consistently lionizes George W. Bush as a great conservative. Is that so?

George W. Bush, and his Republican congress, presided over the greatest six years of spending in the history of this nation, never vetoing any bill that contained billions of dollars in unnecessary earmarks. That’s the kind of politics liberals are usually accused of.

George W. Bush presided over the greatest surge in illegal immigration in the nation’s history by failing to have the Justice Department prosecute employers, then proposing a plan that would give amnesty to over twelve million illegals. That’s a conservative?

George W. Bush argued to allow our nation’s ports to be secured by a Islamic mid-east country, not long after three thousands citizens were murdered in a terrorist attack by mid-east Islamics. Conservative?

Now, Rush, and other hard-core “conservatives” are on the warpath dubbing McCain as not being conservative enough, and pledging to scuttle his election. In doing so, he and others like, him, (Hannity, Beck, Savage) are dooming the Republican party in the upcoming election by handing it over to Hillary or Barack. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, depending on one’s orientation, but it’s plain stupid on the part of the so-called kings of talk shows.

Fact is, John McCain has often been accused of being the Republican party maverick because, historically, he does not march in lock-step with party policy, thus demonstrating he has a mind of his own. I consider that a good thing. What’s best for America is, and should be, always more important than what’s best for the party. Politics aside, I have always respected the man.

Meanwhile, as Hillary and Barack stand by laughing, Republican in-fighting will assure the Democratic nominee the forthcoming election. All over a stupid label. After January of 2009, the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of America will bitch and complain about all the liberal policies of the new president, the pro-life Supreme Court Justices, the clamp on run-away spending, and the stop to an unnecessary war, pointing fingers and issuing blame everywhere but in their own bailiwick — which is where it will belong.

As for me, I’m waiting for the first candidate to tell us what he or she will do about the impending incursion of radical Islam extremism within the borders of our country. That, alone, will likely be the most pressing problem facing the future of America, yet no one utters a word.

Is that a liberal or a conservative issue? It’s neither. It’s an American issue. It’s about our grandchildren. Let’s hope the next president has the guts to stand up to the threat.

As for me, ask me the issue before assigning a label. I’m a fan of another great American named, Johnny Cash. Just like him, I Walk The Line.

THE POWER OF LOVE

Now that more than six years have passed, the tragedy of 9/11 has become old news. It’s off the charts, a memory only to those who are already in high school. We have moved on to more important issues in the election year: Health care, education, immigration, social security and, of course, the wars overseas. We think of 9/11 now, more like we think about Pearl Harbor, a day that will live in infamy, but not in our daily lives.

To me, the memory lingers as though it was yesterday. I was flying over the Atlantic when the terrorist planes struck the World Trade Center. One second, I was comfortably writing a letter in seat 26A of a British Airways flight from London to Charlotte, and then next second, the pilot was telling us all that we were being diverted, and our plane was to land in some remote place called Moncton, New Brunswick. Moncton, New Brunswick?

     My world changed in an instance. Totally confused, the first thought that came to mind, was trying to reach my wife. I didn’t understand why I had suddenly lost control over my life and the only thing that was important now, was my family and my life’s partner who I loved and who loved me. I spent the next three days with over two thousand passengers from twenty-two flights, in a hockey coliseum, watching the repeated images on the huge television screen of people being murdered in an act of terror. Every one of those people had one mission in mind: To be reunited with the people they love.

A life-changing incident of gigantic proportions like this tends to put all matters into perspective. We all go about our daily lives in a zone, meeting obligations every day, work, maintenance and taking our families for granted, because they are…well, just there. No more. I stepped back and realized what was most important in this world. Nothing comes close.

Love.

Preachers can preach, fist-pumpers can raise hell, generals can deploy armies and political leaders can inspire followers, but the single most powerful force anywhere, is “Love.”

Love is the first craving of the newborn and the last of the dying. Love is what all human beings seek to give and yearn to receive throughout our lives. It is basic to our nature. All of us, the bad and the good. Prisons are filled with people who never had the chance to experience in the true meaning of love. Children who are deprived of love are often those who go astray. Children who experience love are the ones who usually grow into healthy adults. Love is the fuel of the soul. It is the ultimate need. And I would still like to believe that love conquers all.

No child is born a Christian, a Muslim a Jew or an atheist. No child is born with beliefs. They are but living computers, assembled from birth without the first program until they become indoctrinated by those who impose ideals of their choosing. Much like other religions, children who are born into the Islamic faith have no choices, because their minds will be manipulated from birth. Within the radical sect of Islam, these children are not only taught to love, they are taught to hate those who do not believe as they do. By the time they are grown, their mind-set is fixed. It’s not their fault. Many become terrorists, much like the nineteen radicals who sacrificed their lives to kill 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. We see, now that suicide bombers have proliferated, that a great population of haters have multiplied by the millions around the world, because they were indoctrinated from birth by their extremist fathers.

The stories are far an few between, but inspiring nonetheless, about native mideasterners who have seen the light, and learned that Christians and Jews and even atheists, are all loving people, and not the monsters they were taught to believe. One such, Lebanese born, Brigitte Gabriel, wrote a book “Because They Hate,” a must read for anyone who has questions about the power and plight of radicals around the world. In her story, she grew up fearful of Jews because she was indoctrinated from birth to believe they were horrible people. Then, in her late teens, she had an encounter with an Israeli hospital where she learned how loving these people were.

Some friends have said that God was with me that fateful day in September of 2001, because my flight from England landed safely in Moncton, New Brunswick. Every time I hear that, I wonder why God was not with the 3,000 innocent people who were snuffed out in one single episode of mass murder. I suppose there are answers. We’ll never know for sure.

The world had been invaded, not by a foreign government, not by a political dissident, but by a virus that has infected over sixty countries in this world, and maybe more. It’s an evil that lurks in the shadows, camouflaged as you and me. They are evil because they hate us, as much as they love their God, to whom they serve. Fanaticism is nothing new, but this brand of fanatics have proven they have the means to create havoc on both sides of the Atlantic. This is no longer a distant television broadcast from Israel or Northern Ireland. It’s no longer about “them”. It’s about “us”.

My lifetime has seen many wars and conflicts, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Bosnia, Desert Storm, etc., but they were always somewhere else. This time, I am frightened. Because I know our enemies are out there, waiting for the right moment to kill you and me.

It is far from over.

Following the terror attack, patriotism blossomed all over this nation like a field of flowers in spring. It was good to see we are all really one after all, regardless of race, creed, or religion. It was good to see those flags flying. It was good to see people lighting candles, holding hands and sharing the love among us. For despite our political or ethnic differences, we are all still Americans who love our country and love one another, seeking peace and prosperity for all.

The enemy should not underestimate the power of love that exists in this great nation. After the eleventh of September, we saw it emerge like a great sunrise over the eastern horizon, shining brighter than ever before. We should not lose that glow. It is our greatest weapon. It makes us invincible.

Consider the final act of many victims in those moments of terror, in offices or on airplanes, picking up a cell phone, desperate to call someone they cared about, knowing their deaths were but seconds away. In their final breaths, they all had but a single message to convey: “I love you.”

I cannot help but wonder how long it had been since many had spoken those words.

Perhaps, it’s time we all reflect. As Valentine’s Day draws near, why don’t we all stop watching television for a moment, or put down that newspaper and make the time to look at your partner, your mother or father, your child, or your friend directly in the eyes, and utter those magic words: “I love you.”